Solutions to Hunger and Corruption

Upon hearing that the Philippines ranked pretty high up in terms of hunger and corruption made me think of possible solutions to the age-old problems that have been haunting our country up until now. Let us discuss hunger in this issue and corruption in next week’s column… I believe the solution to hunger is “to teach our nation how to fish” and all it takes is for all those successful entrepreneurs and business experts to share their time and expertise to mentor aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. It has been our advocacy, in our own little way, to reach out to others so that they can be inspired, empowered, be more informed and gain more confidence in enhancing their business.

To those who have traveled and have seen a hungry Pinoy in other countries, please let us know. To my knowledge, there has been no Pinoy that has gone hungry overseas. Pinoys are one of the most enterprising workers in any country they are in. They see opportunities for growth either in an office environment or in business. I believe they are the epitome of what our advocacy has been pushing all along. They maintain an entrepreneurial mindset in everything that they do which is basically having the right winning attitude, never ceasing to see opportunities, innovating on the status quo or creating something new for the market.

So why are Filipinos going hungry in our own country? Are they lazy? Or are they not entrepreneurial? Do they have so many children, more than what they can support? These questions are important because people who grow hungry out of laziness are probably those who deserve it. But we can see in some studies that our country actually has a high propensity for entrepreneurship but most are micro or small, often characterized as survival microentrepreneurs who have little or no innovations nor technology-use nor differentiation from other businesses, and therefore would often lead to mortality. We must therefore do our share to encourage, advise and empower our kababayans to be agents of innovations in any product or services that they provide.

I think it is equally important as well to promote responsible parenthood. Part of that is the simple logical belief that if one cannot afford to have so many children, then he must not do so. Lack of responsible family planning I believe is the greatest source of the hunger and poverty problems. Related consequences to this of course are the health, education and other social issues which I need not dwell on.

A related issue is the rural-to-urban migration, and hopefully it is a sustainable pattern of reversal as regional development efforts are taking effects with increased economic activity in the provinces. This is more evident with the continuous opening of provincial branches of super malls of SM, Robinsons and Ayala, the Puregold and Waltermart branches as well as homegrown regional malls and hypermarts. This means faster growth rate in the regions, which we know is further enhanced with the acceleration of infrastructure projects in the super regions. Now the speed and sustainability of this momentum would greatly depend on how enterprising and creative the local people are and also how proactive and supportive their respective local government officials, from the governor, to the mayors are and down to all local officials so that they can truly harness the potential of their regional competencies and resources.

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I asked some of our entrepreneurs on their thoughts on how we can create a spirit of enterprise in the Philippines and this is what they said…

(Chairman of the Board, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company)
I definitely believe we can develop a national culture of entrepreneurship – I certainly wouldn’t have moved back after so many in years in Hong Kong if I had doubts about our capacity to rise to our futures!

At its core, entrepreneurship is about individuality and responsibility. We must therefore inculcate a culture of responsible citizens, who seek healthy competition, and due to their creativity, innovation and determination to work hard and persevere, can win the confidence of consumers.

At PLDT and Smart we’ve actually grown many ancillary businesses due to a rebirth in entrepreneurial spirit amongst our managers. We encourage an open and honest style in how we deal with each other, which breeds accountability and transparency. It also means that we’re better prepared at recognizing our weaknesses and addressing them. Once we’ve addressed a problem we let that manager perform to the best of their ability — entrepreneurship is about taking responsibility and running with it!

A lot of progress has been made in recent years towards seeing more small and medium size businesses grow. We need a lot more of that to happen — and it has to start with building a strong work ethic and feeling of personal responsibility about one’s own destiny. I’ve found that more often than not, once someone feels empowered so that they are in charge of their life’s decisions, they often choose to make responsible, informed ones.

(General Manager, National Bookstore)
I think the key is education at all levels. For the youth, entrepreneurship should be discussed as early as high school or even at the elementary school level. We should not have to wait until they are in college before encouraging our children to start their own business. And take note, entrepreneurship is not only for the young. There should be an active program of education – perhaps at the barangay level – that can encourage and educate would-be entrepreneurs regardless of age or financial capability. After all, anyone who can cook or run even a small sari-sari store, as long as they are willing to work hard, is already an entrepreneur.

(Chairman, LBC Mabuhay USA Corporation)
Most Filipinos are siguristas than risk-takers. Risk is part of business. In order to attract more Filipinos to be entrepreneurs, it is important that the government, both at the national and local level, establish a climate that is business-friendly. Red tape should be cut and government workers should be trained to serve professionally. Government should be the first to show that it means business in order for Filipinos to have confidence to take risk and venture into business.

(President and Chairman, Level Up International)
Entrepreneurs are often born but can also be taught. The best teaching is by example—let’s publicize success, particularly by people who started with nothing or surmounted great obstacles on the way to building their businesses. Let’s show how they helped other people while making money for themselves. And by so doing, begin teaching our young people that there are many roads to a meaningful life. The “good” job with a big company is only one of them. A better one may be the road less traveled—of personal risk with no safety net, that may lead after much sacrifice and hard work, to the creation of value and jobs and wealth where there was none before.

(Chief Executive Officer, Webworks)
To succeed in any field of endeavor, we need role models. We need someone, whether we know them personally or from a distance, who we can look up to, edify, and emulate. To develop a culture of entrepreneurship among Filipinos, we need to see more successful Filipino entrepreneurs held up as role models by organizations such as the PCE. We need to see examples of seemingly ordinary Filipinos becoming successful entrepreneurs, so that we can believe that we can do it, too.

(Owner, Salt & Light Ventures Inc.)
Let’s start them young! Expose grade school and high school kids to entrepreneurs by integrating entrepreneurship into the curriculum. The government can also give special tax incentives to starting entrepreneurs (instead of harassing them!) by giving them tax holidays for the first 2 or three years of operations.